After locking up the program's first outright league championship and earning a home playoff game, the Dublin Jerome football team is now preparing for its biggest challenge thus far this season in the eyes of coach Bob Gecewich.

The Celtics, who are 8-2 overall and finished 6-1 in the OCC-Cardinal Division, are seeded fourth in Division I, Region 2 and will play host to fifth-seeded Springboro (9-1) in the first round Friday, Nov. 8.

"Springboro might be the best all-around team we've faced this season," Gecewich said. "Their offensive line is really big. The quarterback is really good. They have a quick running back. Their pass game is strong. Their linebackers and defensive backs run extremely well. They're really aggressive. They play a lot more man coverage than we've seen this year and they're confident in what they do and they fly to the football. They're good. They're 9-1 for a reason."

Jerome earned the outright OCC-Cardinal title with a 56-0 win at Worthington Kilbourne on Nov. 1. That same night, Springboro closed the regular season with a 37-6 win at Centerville, its third consecutive victory.

The Celtics are making their first postseason appearance since 2017, when they lost to Olentangy Liberty 35-0 in the first round of the Division I, Region 2 playoffs.

Springboro, which won the Greater Miami Conference National Division, qualified for the postseason for the first time since 2016, when it lost to Cincinnati Colerain 35-14 in the first round of the Division I, Region IV playoffs.

Against Centerville, quarterback Landon Palmer completed 16 of 23 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns, Moise Armbruster rushed for 77 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries, Timmy Keseday ran for 71 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries and Titan Case had four catches for 75 yards and two scores.

"We went 5-5 last year and we were predicted to go 2-8 this year," Celtics senior wide receiver and defensive back Jacob Nally said. "We've completely flipped it and gone 8-2. It shows that no matter what teams predict, it's not always how it works. Even though people said it's not how it's supposed to be, it's just whatever you put in is what you get out. We go in every day and we work every day, and we put in 100-percent effort."

Against Kilbourne, Jerome scored 42 points in the second quarter to take a 49-0 lead into halftime.

The Celtics' defense forced three turnovers and held the Wolves to just 48 total yards.

Nate Kovach and Jack Soehner each returned a fumble for a touchdown, Adam Booth rushed for 66 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries and scored on a punt return and Connor Barco had two receptions for 47 yards and a touchdown.

On the season, quarterback Ryan Miller has completed 109 of 184 passes for 1,184 yards and 15 touchdowns, Booth has rushed for 889 yards and 11 touchdowns on 180 carries and Seth Martin has 37 catches for 341 yards and two scores.

Barco has 21 receptions for 272 yards and five touchdowns.

Defensively, Dominic Nardone leads Jerome in tackles with 89, followed by Soehner with 79, and Nally has four interceptions.

"The goal was to get better and play hard every weekend and the kids have done that," Gecewich said. "They got themselves in a situation to win the league and they did that and by proxy, that got them into the playoffs. Right now, it's one game at a time. You win, you keep playing. You lose, you go home."

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

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